When women speak about rape culture and how it affects them, maybe men should just listen for a change instead of asking for more emotional labour?
A recent ad released by a jewellery house for Navratri time shows a woman/young girl being stalked by a man on a motorcycle. At the end of the video, the girl displays her stunning skills at wielding a stick, and so the man stops following her, because she is capable of self-defence. This ad has triggered much discussion from both sides on social media, and is doing the rounds as a ‘better’ alternative to the Tanishq ad.
Last night, I had an interaction about this with a man on a social media platform, that was both all too common, and a rarity, at the same time.
What was unique about it, is that the man was not abusive, and when I told him I did not want to engage anymore, he stepped back and did not continue the conversation further. That has NEVER happened to me before, and so, even though this is the bare minimum requirement, in any interaction between two people, I do appreciate it.
The annoyingly unexceptional thing about the interaction though, is that it involved quite a bit of mansplaining.
I had shared a post with this video, made by another woman, along with a few comments of my own. The post that I had shared, criticized the ad, saying that walking down the street should not require persons of any gender to carry a stick along with them.
I shared the post, adding, “THIS. Women shouldn’t have to learn martial arts to just walk on the street. The fact that they have to is messed up. It’s a symptom of a problem not the cure. When we put the onus of ‘self defence’ on women, it only contributes to the victim blaming if something does go wrong.”
So far, so good.
Until the aforementioned man decided that I was just one of those unreasonable people who wanted ads to be ‘politically correct’.
His argument was that while he agreed with me that things should not be so, they currently are the reality for many women, as compared to the Tanishq ad which is not the reality for many women. Ads, in his opinion, should not distort the reality, to be politically correct.
Please note, that my post made no reference to the Tanishq ad. I refused to engage with him on that.
I even ignored that he had made a lot of assumptions about the lived experiences of women, and engaged with him on the point that as long as we applaud narratives that support half measures like learning self defence, as a solution to the rape/molestation problem, we will stay complacent, and never progress to finding a solution that tackles the system, and brings about real change.
There was a bit more back and forth which each of us repeating what we had already said, before I said that this was not an intellectual exercise for me, and that I did not want to discuss this further.
Post that, he did not respond, but the incident had already left a bad taste in my mouth.
I texted a few friends to rant. “Why do men think this is something women like to ‘debate?’ So many fucking assumptions about the lived experiences of women. What the fuck will it take for men to see a woman’s point of view and not feel the need to mansplain and tell us their opinion?”
At this point, you may think I’m overreacting. The man did leave me alone when I told him to, and at no point was he crass or vulgar.
So what am I so upset about? Can’t I just listen to another opinion? Why am I so biased and emotional?
As a woman, in a patriarchal culture, I am bombarded by misogynistic messaging on a daily basis. Some of it is overt. Some is subtler. And it doesn’t just come from men.
Having to process these messages, and not let them affect me, takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. It is exhausting. This is something that most men will probably never understand, because they have never had to do this emotional labour.
So, on top of that exhaustion, when the job of translating these experiences, for a man, who continues to brush aside my lived experiences and debate with me, as if he is an expert on women’s experiences, also becomes work for me to do – frankly, it is infuriating!
None of what I said is a startlingly new perspective. It has been said and written about in much detail by generations of women. If my point of view was something he did not agree with, he could quite simply have done his own research and educated himself, rather than assume that I would explain it. That is just entitlement, and an attempt at sealioning me.
Further, when I did take the trouble to engage with him, he could have chosen to listen, instead of trying to teach me about my own experiences. I myself, as a woman, who shares some lived experiences of other women, am wary about speaking for all women, or even the majority of women. So, his overconfident assumptions about what the reality of ‘many women’ in our country is, came off as annoying.
The onus of explaining their own oppression should not be on the oppressed. It is the responsibility of the oppressor to do the work to educate themselves.
This applies no matter what the specific oppression is – cis-het folks should not assume that queer people exist to teach them about LGBTQIA+ issues; people belonging to dominant religions, should not expect emotional labour from those belonging to minority religions; savarna folks should educate themselves rather than insisting that DBA people explain their oppression to them.
Thanks but no thanks, Men, I don’t want to educate you on my lived experiences!
Speaking about the experiences in our life that deny our full humanity is exhausting and triggering. So when someone is telling you about it, appreciate the opportunity to learn, and just listen.
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